“We should always bear in mind that numbers represent a simplification of reality.”
Kenneth E. Boulding
“Data do not give up their secrets easily. They must be tortured to confess.“
“The utmost confusion is caused when people argue on different statistical data.”
Sir Winston Churchill
Pick a number.
Plaster it up in the screen and suggest it tells the whole story.
And then today I saw Ben Carson saying “we have to do something if 70% of the people in America think we are going in the wrong direction.”
Oh, no you don’t.
Today I stop screaming at the television and share some truth.
If I scan the maybe dozen worthwhile polls across the United States I would eyeball the % of people who think the country is going in the wrong direction at somewhere between 65% & 70%.
This is truth.
Over the past 12 years a consistent over 60% of US citizens has believed the country was moving in the wrong direction.
By the way.
The current number is lower than a number of times in American history since 1971 <when I believe we started asking the question about the direction of America>.
The worst? 90% in 2008 at the end of the Bush presidency.
The best? 2 months after 9/11 I believe we got to 90%.
4 months after 9/11 about 60% of America thought we were going in the wrong direction.
Only three times since 1971 has more than 50% of America thought we were going in the right direction.
The time I just pointed out.
Once for about a year during the Reagan administration.
Once for about a year during the Clinton administration.
Let me say that again.
Only 3 times since 1971 has a majority of the United States citizenry believed the country was going in the right direction.
Suffice it to say, regardless of the president or administration, that today, yesterday and most likely tomorrow … a significant majority of people are going to say the country is not going in the right direction.
By the way.
In the exact same poll where 65% or so of Americans said they felt the country was going in the wrong direction those exact same people, 76% of them as a matter of fact, said that things for their own family we generally headed in the right direction.
So, please, please stop with the whole fucking bullshit soundbite suggesting that this point in time when people are dissatisfied with the direction of the country is unique to this president and this time.
Just tell the fucking truth.
We Americans are always unhappy with the direction of the country – regardless of the administration party.
And you know what?
I put a significant responsibility on the media.
If all I do is hear people talking about how people are unhappy with the direction of the country then … well … fuck it … we must actually be heading in the wrong direction!
Combine that with the news infatuation with negativity and crisis and anyone could start believing that Armageddon is upon us.
I could get over the nonstop breaking news coverage day after day on some cynical view on something that should be positive … and I could probably get over the nonstop coverage of some random piece of violence … but I cannot get over the lazy use of research.
Research is one of those things where the whole truth can be put into perspective easily.
And, please, don’t get me started on “untrustworthiness” scores.
People aren’t really unhappy with the direction of the country. We are just a perpetually dissatisfied citizenry. We are restless and, in general, always feel like we could, and should, be doing better.
But, please, please stop suggesting that 70% saying the country is going in the wrong direction is some huge crisis of country.
“Caress the detail, the divine detail.”